When in Gangtok, your guesthouse host or local driver might mention about 3-point, 7-point or 10-point interests. The only 3-point I know is the 3-point turns when I drive! Later I learnt that the x-point interests meant the number of places (points) of interests to visit 🙂
My host suggested that I hired a driver for a day to do the “10-point interest” tour. I declined that offer because I did not like rushing from 1 point to another, without learning anything about the place or, at least, to enjoy the moment of being there. Having said that, the benefit of having a driver at my own disposal was that I got to choose the points of interest and the time spent at those places.
In the end, I settled for 7-point interests, and they are as follows:
- Rumtek Monastery
Rumtek Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhism monastery of the Karma Kagyu order – originally founded in Lhasa, Tibet in the 12th century by His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa.
During the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, the sixteenth Karmapa fled to Sikkim, established the Kagyu religious order here and built a new monastery on a land donated by the Sikkimese king. He was also instrumental in spreading Tibetan Buddhism to the West and had set up over 200 Karma Kagyu centres, so much so when he died in 1981, he left behind a wealthy monastery with lucrative international network.
However, there are tensions between two sects on the rightful successor to the throne, resulting in Rumtek currently guarded by the Indian Army against possible sectarian violence by the feuding parties.
– Entry to Rumtek Monastery is free.
– Foreign nationals need to show their passport and the Sikkim entry permit.
Ropeway means cable car. To be honest, I wasn’t sure about going up on this 15-minute cable car ride. It’s not about a fear of heights but a reluctance to spend unnecessary money and time on something that could be a tourist trap.
Due to possible miscommunication between Poorva the driver and I, we landed at the Deorali station, and next thing I knew I was in the cable car, enjoying views of Gangtok township. If the weather is good, one might be able to have a clear view of Mount Kanchenjunga snow peaks and valley.
– Entrance Fee is Rs60.
– Deorali station is the lowest level station and very close to the Institute of Tibetology.
3. Namgyal Institute of Tibetology and Dro-dul Chorten Stupa
Established in 1958 by the last king of Sikkim, the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology holds one of the largest collections of Tibetan works in the world, outside of Tibet. The works featured are Tibetan iconography, religious art, thangkas, statues, ancient manuscripts, etc. The institute houses a museum, library and general reference centre on Tibet and the Himalayas.
–Entrance Fee is Rs10.
Just walking distance from Tibetology Institute is the Dro-dul Chorten Stupa which contains holy books and religious objects. Also, around the stupa are 108 prayer wheels.
4. Tashi View Point
Tashi View Point offers a sweeping view of Kanchenjunga snow peaks on a clear day. No such luck for me, unfortunately, as the sky was rather hazy that day.
5. Enchey Monastery
Established in 1909, the Enchey Monastery is built on the site blessed by Lama Druptob Karpo, a tantric master known for his power of flying! Well, no flying antics on the day of my visit but I quite enjoyed having the monastery to myself as there wasn’t anyone there except a stray dog.
It was so peaceful, wandering around the grounds of the monastery that it reminded me of my walks exploring monasteries in the villages of Ladakh.
6. Ridge Park and Flower Exhibition Centre
Ridge Park is a great site for people to relax – it has a traditional Sikkimese-style gazebo and is lined with trees and plants. Just below the park is the Flower Exhibition Centre which holds the annual Orchid Show during spring time when the orchids are in full bloom. The flower centre is still open outside of the orchid season and even though it’s not a very large area, there is still a good collection of flowers on display.
-Entrance Fee is Rs10.
7. Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom (DHH)
The DHH is a government-run arts and crafts centre. Apart from manufacturing, showcasing and selling their crafts, DHH is also a training centre. I came across students working hard – weaving handlooms and painting thangkas. They don’t mind visitors coming into their classrooms or workshops to observe them.
-Entrance Fee is Rs10.
So, there you have it – the 7-point interests of Gangtok. There are other places too such as Ganesha and Hanuman Temples, and other viewpoints to see Mount Kanchenjunga but I wasn’t interested.
There are 2 more places in Gangtok that I would recommend to visitors: MG Marg and Rachna Books.
MG Marg is a long stretch of open mall lined with shops, restaurants and bars. Here you will find locals and tourists milling around, taking a leisure stroll or just relaxing on the benches in the middle of the boulevard. No vehicles are allowed in MG Marg as it is a pedestrian zone area only, and interestingly, the boulevard is free of litter and smoke. Yup, believe it or not, this is India, and this is why I LOVE Gangtok for being different!
For food at MG Marg, I tried a few places but Baker’s Café and Taste of Tibet are my favourites for pastries and momos (dumplings) respectively.
Last but not least, something for book lovers – Rachna Books. Rachna Books is probably the best bookshop in Gangtok, well-stocked with books written by Indian and foreign authors. Also, they are very proud of Gangtok’s local writer, Prajwal Parajuly who published his debut book, The Gurkha’s Daughter, in 2012 which was subsequently shortlisted for the 2013 Dylan Thomas Prize. The bookshop is also known to have organised readings, film screenings, musical performances and other book-related events and exhibitions.
I have personally met Prajwal in Kolkata prior to my visit to Gangtok. We met at a walking tour organised by Calcutta Walks. But at that time, I didn’t know who he was except that he mentioned about his hometown, Gangtok and that he’s a writer. I finally knew about Prajwal when the owner of Rachna Books showed me The Gurkha’s Daughter book and a picture of the writer himself! Needless to say, I bought the book 🙂
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